I remember as a child when we would be playing, there was always a big obsession about who the boss of the game was. I don’t know where we learnt the concept so early in our lives particularly the perceived power that comes with being the boss. The good news is today, there is an ideal for more leadership than management. That means more and more organizations are looking to create a culture where the boss is the facilitator and not the order giver. People are people so while there may be a desire at an organizational level to achieve this, people have diverse management styles when they are the boss. The reality is that when a person starts working their way up the corporate ladder they realize that after every promotion they still have a boss. The illusion of “be your own boss” can be misleading particularly when it results in people thinking the only way out is to have their own business. There is a perception that when you have your own business you are not accountable to anyone. After all, we grow up with a belief that the boss has full control and does not have to answer to anyone, but simply gives orders.
What is the obsession with being the boss? Do you honestly believe that there are people who are not accountable to anyone? It is very dis-empowering to yourself to believe that someone has control over you. The reality is nobody can force you to do anything that you don’t want to do. You choose to do anything that you do, you always get to lead your life! What you choose may be influenced by the consequences of what you do, but it is an abdication of your power to say you did it because you were told to.
Do you have what you perceive to be a bad boss? Why do you think they are bad and what have you done to address the problem? Let’s suppose your boss is a micro manager (a popular problem when someone is reviewing their own boss). Are you resisting their micro managing style or embracing it, constantly looking for ways to make your efforts deliver better results? Have you ever tried getting them involved in your work up front? It sounds crazy but you know they are going to meddle anyway, so why not let them in up front? That way you have a much better chance of buy in from them in terms of the output you produce. I am not saying it is easy (and those that know me well will also have your jaws dropped at my comment).
I do not like being micro managed. I quit my last job in a large corporate because I felt amongst other things, I was being micro managed in terms of how I was expected to deliver the output. I am a strong believer in don’t tell me what to do, tell me the outcome you want and I will get you there. So being strong minded, when that was not happening I packed my bags to head on to be an entrepreneur. My partner and I co-founded a business and we were doing great! We chose to get more muscle and got more partners on board. Suddenly, we had too many cooks and I felt like the new partners were sticking their noses where they did not belong. I am no pushover, and as much as I was attached to the business we started and what we had built around us in terms of people, product offering, service levels and brand I quit on a company I helped start up. Evidently micro-management didn’t work for me either. After all, I am the same guy that has a set of cuff-links where one says “I AM THE BOSS” and the other says “I AM NEVER WRONG”.
I have moved on with my original partner and we have started yet another successful business as we have learnt more about who we are and who we work best with. It has meant a lot of sacrifice and delayed gratification but the evidence says I am only good at working for bosses that agree with me. The “be your own boss” motto or promise must be understood in its entirety. I believe you will always be accountable to parties outside of yourself so you will always have a boss other than yourself. In fact at any given time you may have many bosses, but you still always get to lead. Don’t have unrealistic expectations as to what your career growth means relative to being a boss. You already lead your life, even if you have the lowest ranking/graded job in the company.
When I started working after graduating from University, I was my own boss but also answerable to my manager, her peers and her boss. When I became a manager, I was my own boss but also answerable to my manager, my peers and staff that reported into me. When I got more Leadership positions, I was my own boss but also answerable to our shareholders, my peers, our staff and our clients. As I have grown in my career and become a bigger boss, I in turn have more and more bosses. I am answerable to a lot more people now than when I was a junior looking up the corporate ladder. I have also learnt to manage my boss better:
  • I have given up on my desire to prove that I am right. All it does is create conflict so I do not get stuck on my point of view when my boss has a different one. As long as we agree on an action and we take it, that is all that matters. There is always an opportunity to revisit actions and correct them if they are not working as we would like.
  • I am not attached to my idea being bought into by my bosses when I present it to them. Just work on your bounce back ability as all “NO” is to me now is one answer closer to my next “YES”.
  • I am actually listening to what my boss is saying when we disagree. This is my hardest one to get right, but when I actually listen to what they are saying rather than what I am thinking, we tend to move a lot sooner. Einstein put it best when he said “Nothing happens until something moves”.
  • I keep my eye on the prize, which to me is winning. That is all I want so when my boss and I disagree I look to find a solution that will leave us both leaving the table feeling like we both won. I can forfeit being right and still leave the table feeling like I have won.
There can be many bosses but one leader. If you want to succeed and win though, you have to be accountable to those you serve. When those you serve seem difficult, manage them accordingly by adapting what you are offering so that it results in a WIN:WIN situation rather than a LOSE:LOSE one! “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change” ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer. Otherwise if changing the way you feel does not work, then change bosses, but make that your last resort! You always get to lead your own life, no matter how many bosses you have!

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